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John Engler named interim MSU president despite student, faculty protests

Dan Martel raising his fist
Cheyna Roth
Michigan Radio

Former Governor John Engler spent his first day as interim president of Michigan State University dealing with campus controversy over the appointment.

It’s been one week since long-time MSU president Lou Anna Simon stepped down in the face of criticism over how the school handled complaints of sexual abuse by former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar.

The university’s board of trustees voted unanimously in favor of Engler. But both students and faculty voiced opposition to the choice. They said a politician with no academic leadership experience was not the way to go.

“For the rest of my life I will carry a diploma from Larry Nassar University, and it will be signed by somebody who is so conservative that they have been handpicked to chair the national education assessment board by Betsy DeVos,” said Dan Martel, president of the MSU Democrats.

Physiology professor Laura McCabe said the faculty wants to help change the culture of MSU to help stop sexual assaults. 

“However, our initial efforts have been thwarted by a myopic and entrenched administrative structure,” McCabe said.

The MSU Faculty Senate sent an email this afternoon asking members whether they want to move ahead with a vote of "no confidence" in the Board of Trustees. That poll closes on Saturday. If the majority say yes, the actual vote would take place at the Faculty Senate's next meeting. 

Board members said they believe Engler will be a good leader for the school. Engler will serve in an interim position until a permanent president is chosen.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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